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Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge 2020 kicks off

MUSCAT, FEB 23 - MEDRC announced on Sunday the opening of team registration for this year’s Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge Prize Competition. The Competition is a global water prize that looks to award $700,000 to the person or team that can invent a small, cheap and easy to use desalination device that would enable people in emergency situations to single handedly purify salty or contaminated water to a safe drinking standard. Today’s announcement comes after MEDRC has completed the screening process for all of the 2019 entries and officially declared that no winning device has been found.

A joint initiative led by MEDRC and The Research Council (TRC), funded through the Sultan Qaboos Higher Centre for Culture and Science, the Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge Prize Competition was first launched in Muscat in 2018. The project allows a five-year window to award the prize, with applications re opening every year until 2022, unless a winner is declared in the interim.

The complexity of the challenge and the enormity of the cash prize has helped to attract global attention. MEDRC reports that close to 100 registrations were received in 2019 from 30 different countries around the world. Competitor backgrounds were notably diverse, with leading water research entities, commercial organisations, entrepreneurs and individual problem solvers all looking to participate.

Following an initial screening process conducted by MEDRC, 46 qualified teams went on to participate, 15 of which reached the deadline to submit their entry in September 2019. Three devices were considered to be in contention for the prize and the teams were subsequently invited to submit their device to MEDRC for the final phase of the screening process.

On opening the application for 2020, MEDRC Centre Director, Ciarán Ó Cuinn said ‘This is not an easy challenge. It demands great ingenuity and innovation and will drive dramatic technological leaps in desalination. A winning device would be a humanitarian game-changer, both in emergency response situations and in broader humanitarian terms, as it would for the first time, allow individuals to independently and inexpensively purify salt contaminated water”.

The Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge prize competition specifically looks to deliver a hand-held, stand-alone, low-cost, desalination device for short-term use and rapid deployment following humanitarian crises. Submitted devices will be measured against each of the following prize criteria;

1. Hand-held: Device needs to be a hand-held size and easily transportable.

2. Stand-alone: There will be no addition of chemicals, fuel or other external materials other than the seawater to be purified.

3. Low-cost: The estimated production cost of the device will be $20 or less.

4. Short-term use: The device will operate for a minimum of 30 days.

5. Quality: The device will purify 100 NTU, 35,000 mg/L TDS and meet WHO maximum contaminant levels.

6. Rate of production: The device will produce a minimum of 3 litres of purified water per day including cloudy days.

7. Robust: The device should be resilient, corrosion resistant, have a long shelf-life and should minimise the use of parts that could be lost. The device should be easy to operate following pictorial instructions.

MEDRC have setup a globally representative international panel of experts to assist the project and form the judging panel. They are comprised of representatives from the funding entities alongside internationally renowned water experts.

The online application opened on Sunday, February 23, 2020 and closes on March 26, 2020. Visit

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